Archive for March, 2010

Chinese Cabbage Rolls

Week 9

This past weekend I went to a St. Patrick’s Day parade.  I have never before been to such a parade as the St. Patrick’s Day parades in New Orleans.  The first year we lived here we got quite the education on parades.  In New Orleans they throw everything from beads to stuffed animals to cabbages, carrots, potatoes, etc. etc. etc….  Our first parade caught us off guard… this year we came prepared with bags to carry home our catches.  I didn’t want many cabbages and told Jeff to stop catching them after about three.  We somehow still managed to come home with five.  What the heck do you do with five cabbages???  If you’re me, you look for a new recipe to use them up with.

This week I googled cabbage rolls and came up with the following found at recipezaar.com. You can view the original recipe by clicking HERE.  I pretty much followed the recipe as is, except I doubled everything, which is reflected in the recipe below.  I also was missing a few items so substituted for what I had on hand.  Below is my version of  Chinese Cabbage Rolls.

Marinade

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tbs dry sherry
  • 2 tbs cornstarch

Stuffing

  • 5-6 mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small carrots, grated
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced including tops
  • 2/3 c. water chestnuts, coarsely chopped (I used celery)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tsp sesame oil (I only had olive oil)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper

Sauce

  • 1-1/3 c. vegetable juice cocktail
  • 2/3 c. chicken broth
  • 4 tbs soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper

Other Ingredients

  • 8-10 Chinese cabbage leaves (Napa)
  • 2 tbs oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in
  • 2 tbs water
  • cooked brown rice
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  1. Combine the turkey and marinade ingredients in a large bowl; mix well, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Add the  stuffing ingredients to the turkey, mix well and set aside.  Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Cook the cabbage leaves in a large pot of boiling water until they are limp, about 2 minutes.  Drain, rinse under cold running water, and drain again.
  3. To stuff each leaf mound 1/8 of the stuffing at the stem end, fold the bottom of the leaf over the stuffing, then fold over the right and left sides; roll the whole package over once to enclose the stuffing.
  4. Place a 10-inch frying pan over high heat until hot.  Add the oil, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add the ginger and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and arrange the cabbage rolls seam side down in a single layer in the pan.  Pour the sauce over the rolls.  Return the pan to medium-low heat; cover and simmer for 25min.
  5. Lift the rolls out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a serving platter.  Add the cornstarch solution to the pan juices; cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens.  Pour the sauce over the rolls and sprinkle with green onion.  Serve with hot brown rice.

Tips I Learned Along the Way

  1. First off, I obviously didn’t have Chinese Napa cabbage.  I had the run-of-the-mill, thrown off the side of a float cabbage.  I didn’t even know what Napa cabbage looked like until I googled it.  My cabbage looked nothing like Napa cabbage, but it worked just fine.
  2. I figured out that if you cut the stem off the cabbage, the leaves peel off a lot easier.  It still wasn’t super easy once you got past leaf 4 or 5.  I ended up using two of my cabbages to avoid tearing the leaves.
  3. The original recipe called for 1/2 lb ground turkey.  My packages only come in 1 lb rolls so I doubled everything.  However, I still only used 9 cabbage leaves (original recipe called for 8).  This worked out well since I could only fit 9 rolls in my pan.
  4. I must not have read the recipe super closely because when it came to time to make the sauce, I didn’t have any vegetable juice.  For a moment I panicked, but decided it couldn’t be too hard to make my own.  So again, to Google I went and found this handy recipe… which you can view by clicking HERE.  However, since I only needed 1-1/3 cups,  and I don’t have a juicer, I only used the recipe as a guide.  I did the following:
  • 2 roma tomatoes
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 cap lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • water

I chopped everything up, put it in my food processor and blended the bejeebers out of it.  I added enough water till I thought it looked like juice.  The end result I thought was delicious!!

Recipe High Points

  1. The original recipe was really well written and easy to follow.  Having never made cabbage rolls before, I appreciated the detailed directions.
  2. There weren’t too many  odd ingredients that I had to buy special for this recipe.  I actually had everything already on hand… or at least acceptable substitutes.
  3. I was pretty darn proud of my vegetable juice cocktail.
  4. They turned out delicious!

Recipe Low Points

  1. The biggest low point was definitely the time involved.  It took me two hours to prepare this meal.  Part of that could have been due to the fact that I had to make my own vegetable juice cocktail, but the original recipe still estimated 1.5 hours, start to finish.
  2. I ended up with a boat load of dishes… major low point.

All in all, I thought this was a great recipe.  Delicious as noted above.  Jeff said they were good.  When asked what would have made them delicious, he again noted plate presentation.  He would have liked to see cabbage roll, rice and vegetable.  I said after 2 hours the last thing on my mind nor my ambitions was to steam some broccoli.  Ava, however, thought they were delicious.  I have come to the conclusion I will stop asking Jeff if the recipe was delicious and start inquiring more consistently Ava’s opinion.

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Beef and Spinach Hot Dish

Week 8

I left college with a mountain of debt that would make your head spin if I told you the amount.  My sole goal after graduation was to pay my debts as quickly as my new salary would allow.  To do so, I decided early on that my lifestyle would not change much from that of a college student.  Part of this plan included not eating out much.  I rarely went out for lunch while at work, opting instead to bring my lunch and eat in the break room.  I rotated my lunches between three items: Tostinos Party Pizzas (Canadian Bacon variety), Tator Tot Casserole and Tuna Helper.  For four years, this is pretty much all I ate.  Being the thrifty penny pincher that I am, I would buy Tuna Helper on sale with coupons, getting them for practically free.

This weeks recipe reminds me much of my Tuna Helper days… not because it’s made with tuna, but because it comes out a bit like the “Handy Helper” meals.  A positive, however, is I think this recipe may be a bit more health conscientious than the boxed variety… always a plus.  Again, I found this recipe at my favorite recipe site, allrecipes.com.  You can view the original recipe by clicking HERE.

I did make a few changes to the recipe, so here is my version of Beef and Spinach Hot Dish

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion – chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • 4 oz mushrooms (canned or fresh… I used fresh)
  • 1 can cream-o-mushroom soup
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 2 c mozzarella cheese – shredded
  • 10 oz frozen spinach – thawed and drained
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 oz egg noodles – cooked  (I used whole wheat egg noodles)
  1. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion and garlic.  Stir in mushrooms and spices.  Add thawed spinach, sour cream and soup.  Mix well.
  2. Stir in half of the mozzarella cheese and cooked egg noodles.
  3. Transfer to a 2 qt. baking dish.  Top with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Tips I Learned Along the Way

  1. I rarely measure out cheese for recipes and didn’t do so for this one either.  However, I’m positive that I did not use 2 cups of cheese.  I probably used half of that.  I rarely buy pre-shredded cheese, opting to grate it myself.  I used half of a 1 lb block of mozzarella.
  2. My husband is allergic to MSG and I’ve had to find alternatives to cream soups as they all contain MSG.  If you prefer to steer clear of this particular chemical, there are cream soups found at your local Whole Foods type store that are organic/ MSG free.  They aren’t as concentrated as normal cream-o-whatever soup, but are probably healthier for you.  It did make my dish a bit more runny.
  3. I bought a 16 oz package of spinach and eyeballed out 10 oz.  However, next time I’ll just use the entire package.
  4. The original recipe didn’t call for Worcestershire sauce.  This was a suggestion by one of the reviewers that I think is a definite must!!

Recipe High Points

  1. The biggest high point for me was that Ava liked it and could eat it.  She now refuses to eat “baby” food and I’ve had to find alternatives that she can both pick up and chew.  She liked the noodles.
  2. Jeff liked it too!  He said this had been his favorite recipe so far.
  3. It was really easy to throw together.

Recipe Low Points

  1. The original recipe wasn’t very hearty… the addition of the egg noodles really helped that.
  2. While Jeff and Ava really like the dish, I’d have to say it was my least favorite so far 😦

So in conclusion, as point #2 above states, this was not my most favorite dish thus far, but as it was a winner for everyone else, you’ll probably find me making this one again.  I think my Tuna Helper days have left a scar I was previously unaware of…

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Crockpot Chicken Alfredo

Week 7

This week I explored the ingeniousness of that small modern marvel, the crockpot.  Who doesn’t love a crockpot?  Throw everything in, plug the sucker into the wall and leave it for hours.  You come home to an already cooked, delicious dinner.  That is exactly what I needed this week.  Call it cooking exhaustion, call it laziness- I just didn’t want to have to spend an hour getting dinner ready.  My general problem with crockpot cooking is that since I’m home the entire time it’s cooking, I get curious.  I get so excited to see how it’s coming along, I tend to check on the progress several times a day and really, in the long run, probably don’t save myself any time.

Anywho, I found the following recipe on about.com.  You can find interesting things there….  If you want to visit the original recipe, you can do so by clicking HERE.

Here you have it, Crockpot Chicken Alfredo:

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 16-oz. jar four cheese Alfredo sauce
  • 4 cups frozen broccoli florets
  • 9-oz. pkg. refrigerated fettuccine
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz. sliced mushrooms (my addition!)
  1. In 4 quart crockpot, place chicken, onions, garlic, mushrooms and red bell pepper. Pour Alfredo sauce over. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 7-8 hours.
  2. Thaw and drain broccoli and add to crockpot along with fettuccine. Stir, cover crockpot, and cook on high for 30-40 minutes, until broccoli is hot and fettuccine is tender. Sprinkle with cheese and serve. 6 servings

Tips I Learned Along the Way

  1. First off, I knew 2 lbs of chicken would be too much for our family, so I halved most of the recipe.  However, I did use the entire jar of sauce.  And I forgot to half the pasta.  So it ended up a bit light on meat, heavy on pasta.  My fault.
  2. Perhaps it’s my crockpot, but when I checked on the progress after about 6 hours, it appeared to be perfectly done.  At 7 hours I noticed the sauce was starting to break down a bit.  By 8 hours, the sauce had gotten watery and the red peppers where really mushy.  And upon eating it, the chicken was a bit dry (I don’t know how that can be possible in a crockpot, but it was).  Next time I’ll only let it cook for 5 to 6 hours on low.
  3. I couldn’t find refrigerated fettuccine at the grocery store so I just bought a package of dry and cooked it up.  I thought there may be something magical about having it refrigerated so I cooked it early in the day and refrigerated it until it was time to add it to the pot.  Reflecting back, I think the only thing magical about refrigerated fettuccine is that you don’t have to cook it.

Recipe High Points

  1. Umm, hello, it’s crockpot cooking!  It can’t get any easier!

Recipe Low Points

  1. Aside from the cooking time issue listed above, my only other complaint is that there were a few more steps required than “add and leave”, which may be more of an issue with my expectations for crock pot cooking than with the recipe itself.

All in all, I give this recipe two thumbs up!  Not only was it easy, it was tasty too!  Jeff liked it, Ava liked it… it was a hit all around.  We’ll be making this again.

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Turkey Sausage Burgers with Peppers and Onions

Week 6

This was one of those weeks when I just couldn’t think of anything new I wanted to try.  So I ended up flipping through another cookbook I rarely look at but now have a reason to (haha, proving to Jeff more and more each week my need for more cookbooks!!).  I found this week’s recipe in Rachel Ray’s “Express Lane Meals, A 30-Minute Meal Cookbook”.  This was another wedding gift, one I registered for because before I got married, I didn’t cook much.  I figured a 30 minute meal I could probably handle.  I envisioned myself like Martha Stewart, decked out in a cute apron, twirling around the kitchen chopping onions like a whiz and keeping my mess to a minimum.  That’s how it looks on TV anyway…

I chose this recipe because I already make turkey burgers that we LOVE, but decided we needed to have some options.  Options are always good.  Reading through this recipe I thought it’d be a fun challenge as there were several ingredients I’d never heard of… always fun trying new things, right?  We’ll get into that more later.  For now, Rachel Ray’s Turkey Sausage Burgers with Peppers and Onions:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • A couple handfuls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorina Romano cheese
  • Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley- finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbs EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)… you know it’s Rachel Ray when you see EVOO
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 2 cubanelle peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/4 lb deli sliced provolone cheese
  • 4 crusty rolls
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the turkey, fennel, chopped garlic, salt and pepper, grated cheese, parsley, and red pepper flakes.  Mix well and form 4 patties.
  2. Heat 2 nonstick skillets over medium high heat, add a tbs of EVOO, once around the pan, to each pan, and preheat the broiler.
  3. Add the patties to one skillet and the peppers and onions to the other.  Cook the patties for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.  Cook the peppers and onions until tender, 6-7 minutes.  Season the peppers and onions with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the split rolls on a cookie sheet or broiler pan and toast under the broiler.
  5. Arrange the provolone slices evenly over the patties in the skillet, then cover  to melt the cheese in the last minute or so.  Place the cheesy burgers on the roll bottoms.  Serve with mounds of peppers and onions and the roll tops.

Tips I Learned Along the Way

  1. I didn’t broil my rolls, I put mine in the toaster.  I guess I technically didn’t use rolls, I used buns: hamburger buns.
  2. Remember Week 1 and my problem with red pepper?  I do and as such, cut back on the amount of red pepper for this recipe.  Funny thing, I think you can probably use the whole 1 tsp and be ok.  I used only 1/2 tsp and I think the burgers could have been better if I had used more.
  3. Be sure to mix your meat mixture well.  If you aren’t careful to do so, the seasonings won’t distribute well.

Recipe High Points

  1. To be honest, this wasn’t a great week in recipe experimentation for me.  The only high point I can think of is that we tried something new?
  2. Jeff liked them.

Recipe Low Points

  1. OK people, I shop at Walmart.  While I had never heard of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or cubanelle peppers, I was excited to try some new ingredients (I was especially excited about the cubanelle peppers because cubanelle rhymes with janell…lame, I know). I didn’t hold out too much hope that Walmart would have the fancy cheese, but I was hoping that they would have the peppers.  Nope.  I had planned on going to Whole Foods as well just in case, but grocery day didn’t permit… actually, Ava didn’t permit.  So I had no fancy cheese or cubanelle peppers.  I ended up using Italian blend grated cheese and a red bell pepper and an orange bell pepper.  Not quite the same I’m guessing.  I also don’t keep fennel seeds on hand so I had to buy some of those too.
  2. I didn’t have a large enough nonstick pan to hold all my burgers so they stuck to my skillet, even with the EVOO…
  3. I forgot to buy the parsley which ment when I got home I was even more disappointed!  I ended up using dried parsley.

All-in-all, I couldn’t help but be disappointed with how these turkey burgers turned out, even though they did taste good.  I do still want to try the fancy cheese and name rhyming peppers and will probably do so someday.  However, I don’t find it practical to run to a store 10 miles from my house for 2 ingredients for a meal.  If this becomes a repeat, it will probably be with Italian cheese blend and rainbow peppers found standard at all grocers.

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